UK oil lobbying revelations spark political row in Brazil

News that UK trade minister Greg Hands spoke to Brazilian officials on behalf of Shell and BP has caused controversy

UK trade minister Greg Hands met with Brazilian officials in March. Photo: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

by Joe Sandler Clarke

An attempt by Liam Fox’s Department for International Trade (DIT) to lobby on behalf of Shell and BP while the companies looked to secure lucrative oil blocks off the coast of Brazil has led to a major political controversy in the country.

The political furore was triggered by a diplomatic telegram obtained by Unearthed under Freedom of Information rules and published last week.

It revealed that UK trade minister Greg Hands “directly” raised the oil companies’ concerns about tax and environmental licensing with Brazil’s deputy minister for mines and energy, Paulo Pedrosa.

The document also showed that the British government welcomed a move by the Temer administration to relax rules requiring foreign companies to use local firms, describing it as a “principal Prosperity objective for us in Brazil”.

After Hands’ visit to Brazil back in March, President Temer’s government went on to make a proposal for up to $300bn in tax relief to companies that develop offshore oil and gas in the country and BP and Shell both won licences to drill in the country’s controversial pre-salt region.

Congressman Edmilson Rodrigues from Brazil’s Socialism and Liberty party (PSOL) told Unearthed that the tax relief bill, titled MP 795/2017, could be brought to a vote in the Brazilian parliament later this week and opposition politicians are keen to block it.